Heavy Hearts With Big Prayers

This year I am more ready for Advent than any other year. I actually started a couple of weeks ago to dig in through the Gospel of Luke and I really hope to finish sometime around the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.

As I was reading through Luke 1 when the birth of Jesus was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Mary (vv.26-38), I had to stay there a bit longer -a day longer actually- to really take in something that I had not seen before.

When the angel told Mary that she had already found favor in God’s eyes and was going to have a child who would be the Savior of the world, Mary’s heart sank because of the bigness of the promise. “How will it be, since I am a virgin?” She asked, and the angel responded saying that she had to do nothing else than to believe the promise and carry it within her. God, the Holy Spirit, would come upon her and overshadow her with the power of the Most High, and therefore the promise would be fulfilled and have a name (I love that *therefore* on verse 35). Do you see it? How we need to dare to hear and to ask “How will it be?” and then, after you ask, trustfully rest and wait on the God who keeps His promises.

The promise was too big to bear for Mary, -and honestly, too big to be believed, but at the same time she didn’t have to do anything else other than believe and carry the promise within her until the fullness of time (oh, Waiting, how sanctifying you are!). Because God had decided to look on Mary with favor, because He had promised the Promise, because God’s Holy Spirit was overshadowing her and giving her the gift of faith to believe, because it was His doing, *therefore* she was able to believe, to carry the weight of the promise, to wait and see the fulfillment all the way through. She not only saw and felt the baby growing in her womb, she delivered the baby and laid Him on the manger, she saw Jesus grow and saw Him being betrayed and hanging on the Cross. But she was there also to see Him conquer Death. She was given the gift to believe God’s Promise, the big promise, the heavy promise. Calvin said that we, Christians,  have one thing in common with Mary, and that is Grace. Grace! What else do we need in the longing, in the waiting, in the meantime?

This Advent I want to pray that God will grant me the same gift of faith that Mary had. My heart, like that of Mary’s sometimes asks when I am facing a promise too good and too big to believe, “How will this be…?” But at the same time, I want to join Mary and hang onto the Promise and carry it within me until the time of its fulfillment comes. And I know that I can do that because God’s Holy Spirit has been given to me to believe. He helps my unbelief.

Think of this, which is harder to believe, that God’s Holy Spirit will overshadow a virgin woman and have her conceive the Savior of the world, or God saving your own child, or giving you that child you long for, or that job, or that husband, or that friend, or that reconciliation you have been praying about? Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. The angel of the Lord said before departing from Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” His promises are true and firm and never change because He is both, the Promise Giver and the Promise Keeper.

Someone said, “God’s promises claim us, we don’t claim them” and, Oh, how I agree with that! If we are His children, we have already found favor in His eyes. We have been given Jesus, the Promised One,  and with Him we have received faith to believe all of His promises which are true, all of them are yes and amen. Just say “yes” to his promises, He will bring them to pass.

This Advent I want to pray big and believe big. I don’t want to be doubtful and not dare to believe that God wants to save many, to reconcile many, to give husbands and wives, and children to his people, and healing, and good jobs, and endurance, and joy, and forgiveness of sins,  and more faith, and more perseverance and patience. I want to embrace the promises as much as they are embracing me and wait expectantly to see their fulfillment.

I pray that as you read this, you won’t think that I am foolishly embracing the “claim-it, get-it” unbiblical approach to God’s promises (the so called Prosperity Gospel). No. Not all. But at the same time, I think that we, hardcore Calvinists, Sound-Doctrine-Lovers, need to wake up and see the Promise-Giver with open hands and stop trying to see if that promise “fits” in our perfect-by-the-book-theology, we need to learn how to receive His promises and believe in His goodness as much as we believe in His Sovereignty. How we need to embrace His promises by faith and believe His Word, and pray over it and wait to see how God will fulfill each one of His promises. We don’t dare to pray eagerly for the lost, for example, trusting that God can and wills to save them because of the “what if they are not elect” that is always present in our minds. How often do we dare to pray for the big things in concrete big ways?  Oh, how easily we forget that God is big and His promises are big and His grace is big! I will pray big prayers and trust that God can bring big promises to pass.

May our hearts this Advent be heavy with many big prayers and big promises. May the Holy Spirit come upon us and overshadow us so that we may believe and wait.

Under His sun and by His grace,


Words, Words, Words

Shiloh Photography©

Words, words, words. We either use them like healing drops or killing poison. We all try hard to say less words, to keep our mouths shut, to use our words wisely, but we need to realize that we won’t succeed unless we abide in the Word of God.

The prudent woman not only speaks fewer words than the fool, but she knows when to speak wise words that bring healing and joy (Prov.12:18; 15:23). This kind of words, words that edify, words that bring healing and joy, words that tell the truth, can only come out -naturally- from our heart through our mouths, when the Word of the Builder, the Word of the God who heals and brings life, the Word of the God of all joy and perfect peace, the God of all Truth is dwelling in us. Remember that Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and that His Word must abide in us (Jn.15:7), do you see the connection there?

Reading the Word, memorizing it, meditating on it, listening to it, is really the only way for us to fill our hearts and minds with the kind of words that will build up and encourage others. Only when we make it a habit to have the Word dwelling richly in us, is that we will start winning our fight against the problem of having a loose tongue and foolish talk.

The Word of God dwelling richly in us will sanctify us (Jn.17:17) -including the way we use our words! The Holy Spirit through the Word of God dwelling in us, will remind us when we should keep our mouths shut, when we ought to speak, and what words to say and not to say. The Lord alone can put a guard over our mouths (Ps.141:3), and it is through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit that He does that.

“Let the Word of God dwell richly in you.” Col.3:16

Under His sun and by His grace,


Elisabeth Elliot and Nancy Wilson on Journal-Keeping

This very much summarizes what I believe on journaling…

“I was very cautious about what I put in the journals. I don’t think it was because I feared someone else would discover my secrets. I think I was afraid to articulate, even for myself, feelings I might have to get rid of. Better to stick  with what God was saying to me than what my heart was saying. It seemed the safer course. I do not repudiate it now. The only way to build a house on the rock is to hear the Word (I couldn’t have heard it if all I listened to was my feelings) and then to try to do it…”

Elisabet Elliot, Passion and Purity (p. 54)

Nancy Wilson also wrote a while ago two posts on journal-keeping that are worth considering:
Part One. Part Two (if you only have time to read one, read part two. It is excellent -a must I would dare to say-.

“[W]e should and must guard our tongues in all things spoken and written: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life” (Prov. 13:3). Psalm141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Our pens need watchmen and guards just like our mouths. And the fact that a journal is “private”does not mean the words can be left unguarded.” -Nancy Wilson


“Life is short. Write good words.” -Nancy Wilson


How to Be Persuasive with our Words

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 16: 20-24

Not one harsh word, not raising my voice, not many words…. Help me, Lord.


Spinning in the Fog

Annie Pliego Photography

It is a foggy day, just the way days have been lately.  The sun-rays come and go through the clouds, but most of the time there is fog.

She puts on her pretty dress, the one that swirls beautifully when she spins around.

Over and over again, she dances.

She spins with wide open arms in the fog. 

She stops. 

All is moving inside of her, outside her, all is unstable. At least that is the way it seems to be. 

And I look from the window, standing where the sun rays appear and disappear behind the clouds, the fog. All is moving, all is swirling inside my head, my heart. Thoughts. This, that. The next. The book, the girl, the man.

The fog won’t rise.

The girl is spinning again.

What matters, what doesn’t? What fights should I fight and which ones are not for me? All is swirling. This, that. Poetry. Calvin. Luther. Chesterton. Analogies. Fog. Love. Unity. Division.

She stops. 

Her legs are firm in the ground.

Her arms still opened wide. 

I stop. I press my Bible to my chest. Hard. I feel a hard lump in my throat. Words are hidden in the fog.

A sun ray shines on her and she starts spinning again.

All these terms, these theological questions. This, that. The passion for one or the other. The songs we sing. The books we read. The words we write. The conversations we have. The lives we live in the open. In the secret.  They all matter. They do. Even when the fog won’t rise and all is moving inside us. It matters. It does matter. I am what I believe.

She spins.

It matters what I believe.

It determines how I will respond…

In the days of darkness.

In the days of joy.

In the days of trouble.

In the days of health.

In the days of sickness.

In the days of trials.

In the days of peace.

She still spinning.

All the days I will live

Under the sun,

Under the fog.

Today, tomorrow,

The time in between.

They all matter.

It does matter!

She stops. She grabs her dress as if by holding unto it she won’t fall. 

I am still holding my Bible. Tight. I do not want to fall.

The sun rays are now coming back through the glass, this time shining on me. All is moving inside of me and tears have found a way to escape through my eyes. I have tried to hold them back but they won’t stay in.

She is tired of spinning. Dizziness has overcome her.

I look at my Bible. The Word of God. It has never been moved. It will always remain. Firm. It never changes. Every word in it has been spoken by the Author of Life. The Alpha, The Omega, the Great I Am. I press it hard to my chest.

O how I love the Word that sustains my life in the midst of all the fog!

Oh how I love the Word of God!

He spoke and all was created.

He spoke and darkness was removed.

He spoke and the Devil did not overcome.

He spoke my name and I lived.

She is holding her dress and playing with it. 

She is content in the fog, and dizzy no more.

I try to smile, to remember what I have learned. How to be content. What I believe. Who am I. I know what it takes not to faint. It is not what I can defend with logic and arguments that sustains me when I am dizzy. No!

It is not that.

It is deeper than that.

It goes beyond that.

It is not what I believe in my head,

but in my heart that keeps me going,

and keeps me still.

It is His love burning in me.

How can I explain with logic and rhetoric, in English or Spanish, this, that, éso, aquéllo?  It is His love that captivates my heart, that sustains my life. It His light shinning through the fog, through tears, and the uncertainties of life that holds my life tight.

To be loved by the Great I Am.

To be known by name.

To be able to respond to that amazing love.

The Spirit  within me,

My cry: Abba Father!

The song He has put in my heart.

That He rejoices over me with singing.

All that undeserved grace.

All that has been forgiven.

How can you possible explain this, that?

And yet that is what sustains me.

That is what strengthens me when all seems to be spinning around.

I come out and hold her hands.

We smile and spin together.

And then we stop.

All is moving inside of us, outside of us, all is unstable. 

At least that is the way it seems to be.



Why Two Words are Better than Three -A Short Spanish Lesson-

Words have the power to bring life or death; joy or sadness; clarity or confusion; liberty or captivity. It is just amazing how much of our lives are built upon the words we have said and the words we have heard.

It is true then, that to know which words are better to use, and when to use them, is not an easy business. Now, if you happen to know more than one language you will find it very interesting to see how some words that are not part of your mother tongue are the perfect fit for a certain occasion, and no matter how hard you try to find a substitute for them in your own language, all seem too short.

For me this has been true, especially with one phrase, a powerful one: I love you

In English we love our cars, our new shoes, our country, our brownies, our coffee in the morning. In Spanish we like those (we could even be “enchanted” by those, as in the phrase: “Me encanta el café y el chocolate”).

In English we love our friends, our neighbors, our husband, our God. In Spanish we don’t.

We have two different phrases that help us distinguish between the way we love some of our friends and the way we love, for example, our husband.

In Spanish we have two ways of expressing our love:

Te quiero
 Te Amo

The difference?

Te quiero is a phrase that you would use to express your love for a good friend, for example.

Te amo is a totally different story.  

Te amo is special.  

Te amo is never said lightly.
Te amo is more intimate.

Te amo are the two words that are spoken softly in the ear of the wife.

Te amo are the words that a wife uses to sign a love letter for her husband.

Te amo are the words that a mom whispers to her baby in the arms, and the ones she says on the phone to her son living in another country.

Te amo are the words we say to our best friend, our brother, our sister who prays and cries with us through the darkest nights.

Te amo are the words a father tells her daughter every night.

Te amo are the words that I say in prayer to my God.

I am thinking that at times two words are better than three. Te amo and I love you will never mean the same. At least for me.

Learning to love,